Zakaria Quote Of The Day

I’ve received a lot of good feedback on my series of George Doriot quotes that I delivered daily on this blog while I was reading Creative Capital. I’ve moved on to Fareed Zakaria’s The Post American World, and I am equally inspired by his words. So I am going to do the same thing with this book. Here’s the first:

Generations from now, when historians write about these times, they might note that, in the early decades of the twenty-first century, the United States succeeded in its great and historic mission – it globalized the world. But along the way, they might write, it forgot to globalize itself.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Sllecks

    Good quote. It definitely resonates with a fear of mine!

    1. gregorylent

      nothing to be afraind of, it is to be embraced! did you ever have a friend on the block who was a bit of a jerk, and then sort of woke up and his whole life changed? same thing

  2. gregorylent

    it was always a post american world … except in the eyes of americans … they are just now waking up to that fact

  3. Venkat

    I don’t know the context of the quote, but I do think Americans let non-Americans browbeat them into thinking they are lagging. Everything from GW, to crappy cellphone infrastructure to dumber-than-normal healthcare is used as evidence of America lagging. Culturally, strawman attacks are made against Larry-the-cable-guy git ‘r done or Paris Hilton stereotypes.What I don’t get from this criticism is this: what IS successful globalization supposed to look like? Is there one canonical form dictated by some existential French bureaucrat (to use a happy phrase a colleague coined in another context)? Let’s try out some other candidates, evaluated with the same ‘worst light’ heuristic that America attracts.Superficially multicultural and deeply jingoistic France? Preachy and toothless Canada whose Toronto-zeitgeist? Addicted-to-posturing China? Still-racist but-great-cellphone-infrastructure Japan? IT-icing-on-medieval-parochialism-cake India?I don’t actually think in this utterly negative way — just making a rhetorical point. Too many apparently objective writers compare America at its worst against the rest of the world at its best. Understandable bias — noble underdog against hated world-power.At it’s best, America is still chock-full of superb globalization-leading internal cultural elements. Your stomping ground, the VC-startup world, is an example. Political discourses in America are brilliant on average, compared to the rest of the World (Zakaria, who I admire, writes for an American magazine after all!). Laugh at Hollywood if you will, but it still drives the grand narratives of the modern world. American Universities are still the best places in the world to develop a globalized world-view (and I say this having met/worked with people emerging from other University cultures)I’ll stop the mini-rant here, since I haven’t read the book. Short opinion: I don’t think America is forgetting to globalize itself. It is just globalizing in its own unique way, like every other part of the world. Things that look more globalized on the surface aren’t necessarily actually so.

    1. fredwilson

      venkatyou are clearly well versed on this subject. i think you’d really enjoy the book. it’s an easy read too.fred

    2. johnmccarthy

      Venkat,This is not an “America Bad/Everyone Else Good” book. It’s main theme is stated in its first sentence, “This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else.” From that point Zakaria writes how American needs to become comfortable in a world where it is not the “decider” but rather one of several influential power.My favorite quote in the book is from a senior European official, ” When we meet with American officials, they talk and we listen–we rarely disagree or speak frankly because they simply can’t take it in. They simply repeat the American position, like the tourist who thinks he just needs to speak slower and then we will all understand.”Glad to see Barack has read this book.

      1. Venkat

        Good point, there is a real distinction here between America declining/others rising, beyond the ‘balance of power’ realpolitik for which the distinction is less relevant.I think Americans largely *have* accepted the one-among-many position, it just hasn’t shown up in official rhetoric yet.The European official’s quote is worth noting from another point of view — people from EVERY country act that way. It just shows up in different ways. Americans repeat themselves slowly. The French retreat to injured silence if you don’t ‘get’ them the first time, Indians harden into a “our ancient culture” stance etc. etc. China to a “we are fundamentally the best” stance.Point being, you have to be fair when you assess the discomfort levels of all nation-states (esp. culturally-coherent civilization-size nation states, the list of 6 in Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’) in their new one-among-many positions. NOBODY is dealing with the loss of their “we are the center of the world” self-perception very well. Despite what many think, America ISN’T the only country-civilization that has gotten used to thinking about itself this way. Here is the full list:America thinks it is the center of the world because it is the dominant CURRENT powerEurope thinks it is the center of the world because they think everything is either a prelude or epilogue to the European renaissance as the defining epoch in historyChina thinks it is the center of the world because it is the country with the oldest political-continuity historyIndia thinks it is the center of the world because it is the country with the oldest religious-cultural continuity historyIslam thinks it is the center of the world because it anchored the first round of globalization and because it’s Big Book says soJapan thinks it is the center of the world because though small, it thinks its culture is simply more evolved and subtle than everybody else’sThat accounts for about 80% of the world’s population. The remaining 20% have a much weaker “dispossessed” grand narrative of a meek-shall-inherit-the-earth model.We are witnessing the birth of a decentered world grand narrative, where there is no hero, not even Frodo-level. The culturally Ptolemaic autocentric world views are giving way to an Einsteinian world of cultural relativism, skipping a cultural-heliocentric stage altogether. Nobody likes it. A book like Zakaria’s can (and should) be written from each previously autocentric perspective.To the extent that the new world order has a center at all, it is in the notion of an ‘End of History’ of the sort Francis Fukuyama (now a recovering neocon) articulated.Okay, ’nuff bad astronomical metaphors :)India thinks it is the center of the world

  4. simondodson

    i’m sure if you’re american, its a great quote ..not really feeling it … sorry

  5. MParekh

    Good book Fred. You may also want to look at Parag Khanna’s “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order”, which comes to some different conclusions. Lots to disagree and agree with in both tomes, and great food for thought.Also, my new favorite TV news show on the weekends is Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Global Public Square) on Sundays. Great for arm-chair policy wonks everywhere.

  6. Liz

    It just seems inevitable that the US will be eclipsed, not tomorrow, not in five years but I think that the global dynamics will be drastically different 20 years from now than they have been in this postWWII era. Every empire rises and falls and there are just so many signs that the powers that be (in politics and finance) have short-term thinking and not long-terming thinking.They are not thinking of the world in 2050 and that will leave us inflexible and slow to adapt to the changes that will surely come our way. The only thing certain is change, right?I don’t fear the US losing influence, power, and financial domination, I do fear the cultural backlash that is inevitable when people realize that other countries are no longer willing to acquiesce to America’s wishes (and, more importantly, they no longer have to). The changes ushered in around 1989 meant the spread of capitalism around the globe and capital doesn’t really care about national superiority, it follows resources and growth. JMHO.

    1. fredwilson

      That is basically the point of Zakaria’s book

      1. Liz

        I’m not pessimistic about the fact that the U.S.’s importance will decline in the next 20-30 years. We’re no exception to the rise and fall of powerful countries/empires throughout history. People get comfortable and complacent with their nation’s status in the world. What I’m worried about is not other countries having more influence but the xenophobia which might emerge in the U.S. and damage our relations with other countries (which are already fractured enough right now). I wish there was more graceful diplomacy and less wielding the big economic stick to influence the INTERNAL politics and markets of other nations. It would be great if we could be partners in creating a peaceful future instead of power brokers looking for strategic advantages. It would serve the U.S. (nation and people) to have more friends in this global culture than we have at the present moment and we don’t seem to be doing much as we could to make this happen.Steps off soapbox.Damn, I should write like this on my own blog!

  7. fakedjs

    We spin the ideas but we don’t always make them.

  8. MikePLewis

    good quote and an even better book. This is a must read for anyone who cares about what’s happening to the world outside the US bordersbtw: found this post through Zementa which surfaced it as a related story to a post i had which mentioned The Post-American World.

    1. fredwilson

      Zemanta as a discovery engine!nice